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Arizona’s Marijuana DUI Laws

We see a lot of DUI cases that don’t involve alcohol at all, but instead drugs, and even prescription medication. The most common cases involve, of course, marijuana, now marginally legal in Arizona with an approved medical card. But the Arizona DUI law says that you can’t be “impaired” even “to the slightest degree” even if you have your medical marijuana card.

It’s Illegal to Drive with Any Marijuana in Your System

The worst part about the Arizona DUI Law is that it says even if you are not “impaired” it is nevertheless illegal to drive with any drug or it’s “metabolite” in your system. This is especially harsh when you learn that the metabolite for marijuana can last in a person’s system for up to 30 days. In many ways it’s a lot like the “per se” violation—being over a .08, but here the level doesn’t matter. Any amount of a metabolite is enough to get you convicted, ostensibly even if you’re not “impaired.”

Arizona Marijuana DUI Penalties

Sound unfair? It gets worse. For marijuana DUIs, and other DUI drug cases, a lot of the same minimum penalties that apply to simple DUI also apply to drug related DUIs. Alcohol and marijuana both fall under the same DUI statute. So, even if you have a medical marijuana card, and are not “impaired” at the time of being pulled over, you can still face the same penalties of an alcohol related DUI if convicted, including:

  • One day in jail
  • An interlock ignition device that you have to breath into to start your car
  • One year license revocation

The only difference with a Marijuana or drug related DUI is that, if convicted, you also get a mandatory one-year revocation of your driver’s license instead of the 90 days suspension required for alcohol related DUIs. Also, if you’re license is revoked, you cannot automatically reinstate at the end of the suspension period. Instead, you have to submit a revocation packet, available at the Arizona MVD website and await for your application to be accepted or denied. 

Medical Marijuana Cards & Driving

In Arizona these days you can get both a license to drive and a license to smoke. With a doctor’s blessing, thousands of people in Arizona are now able to happily procure medical marijuana prescription cards. They look uncannily like a state issued driver’s license with your picture on it next to a little green leaf (it’s the other “green card” you can also say).

But it’s not legal to use both licenses at the same time in Arizona. More and more we see people in Arizona getting charged with DUI for driving while “impaired” by otherwise perfectly legal medical marijuana. The police will take your blood. The lab will look for both active marijuana in your system and the “metabolite” which lasts up to thirty days after a person smokes. It’s the amount of active THC, measured in nanograms that the prosecutor may try to use to convict you. So far, there is no threshold legal amount of THC (unlike the .08 with regular DUI cases), but we think it’s coming.

The penalties are especially harsh even if you have a medical marijuana card; including a one year revocation of your driving privileges, and an interlock ignition device for a year thereafter (even though no alcohol was involved in your original offense). In short, your license to smoke can affect your license to drive.

The Consequences of a Marijuana DUI on Your Record

If you’re convicted of a DUI in Arizona, you cannot have it expunged.  The best you can do is to have it “set aside” which still doesn’t remove it from your record. It still remains on your record in full view when you apply for jobs and have background checks. This can be especially problematic for those who hold professional licenses like healthcare workers, accountants, teachers, commercial drivers and law enforcement. Aside from the just being an ugly stain upon your record, a DUI can actually prevent you from certain careers. For instance, police and fire departments in Arizona and many other places can’t accept you if you have a DUI on record. Even schools, hospitals, and libraries are prohibited from hiring those with a DUI on their record.